1 Nov 2013
Pretty much from the start, Communion has been a unique project that I've always been very proud to be a part of.
From getting that invitation to join the project whilst in Berlin, through to the crazy/amazing shoot, watching +Greg Hall endure the edit, the Bootleg showcases both in Edinburgh and New York and throughout the UK tour, it has been an adventure.
All credit to everyone involved - not only in getting the project realised, but also to shaking up the stagnant business of UK cinema.
The film is available now to rent on the excellent new Vimeo On Demand service (£2.50/$4.00), and I recommend you check it out. It really has been an artists-to-audience venture at every moment through the journey, and I'm so proud of what the entire team has achieved. I was a humble part of it all, and I thank Greg, Becky and Paul for inviting me along for the ride. Love to my UK film family.
Now see what the film is all about here.
19 Oct 2013
|Now that Bootleg Film Festival is over, I've found myself freeing up time to work on some other side projects.|
Over the past few years, I've been sporadically writing small stories, held together under the banner of The Seven Five Nothing. Some of you may have read a few before, and I've also put a few out in ebook format previously.
Back at the start of this 2013, I decided to goose myself a little and finally get down to reading some of my stories in public. I did a couple of open mics out here in New York, which were half-terrifying, half incredible, and ever since, I've been exploring various ways in which I'd like to get the short tales out. After all, stories like to be told right?
A couple of months back, I decided I'd piece them together into a podcast, each read by a different person and underpinned by music from emerging artists I liked on SoundCloud.
Whilst I was still living in Edinburgh, I asked filmmaker Maria McIndoo to record her favourite story. She chose The Mime - take a listen.
All the music used is covered under a Creative Commons license, and subsequently, all of the recordings are being released in the same way: free for people to download and reuse as they want.
I really like the way this came out, and I want to record more. So, here's the open call to anyone who's interested in recording one of my hyper-short stories.
Basically, before I go ahead and launch the podcast proper, I'd like to have a bunch of recordings to work with, and I'm interested in hearing from anyone who's feeling bold and brave enough to record one for me.
You don't have to be an actor, or a public speaker at all - we'll just strike up a dialogue and then I'll send through a story or two for you to pick from. Then all you have to do is record it and send it over. I'll do the rest (and also share it with you before I do the world).
The one prerequisite is that you're able to produce a good recording. And by that I mean something that is clean (no background noise) and crisp (so no popping audio). I'm happy to discuss this fully of course with those interested, but please bear this in mind before checking in with me.
The plan is to launch the podcast in January/February of 2014, and whilst this is a totally not for profit venture, I hope it'll be a real blast all the same :)
Drop me a line via email@example.com, making sure you file it in the subject line if you're interested in recording a story for the podcast, or feel free to pass this along to anyone you think might be interested.
And before I sign off here, the featured music from The Mime is Old Long Arms - Horses Be Gone and Christina Li - Disappear - acapella - both of which are great tracks that I urge you to check out.
Looking forward to hearing from some of you. Rock n roll.
24 Sep 2013
All the talking is done. All the noise and the chaos and the drama is over. This is it. The nightwatchman has hung up his hat and the floor has been swept for the final time. Bootleg has closed its doors.
When you step away from something you launched, it’s leaves a strangeness in the soul. A feeling that, no matter how used to it all you became, it’s good to see it sunset in the distance. You should never stay in a situation too long, working your fingers to the bone, going broke over and over and over again, no matter how much you love the concept. Instead, hit up the party and then step away to refocus all over again.
Thank you to every single filmmaker we ever hosted. At a rough approximation, that’s more than three hundred of you. Three hundred filmmakers who had a small corner of the world, showing their story at some point in the last five years. I don’t know about you, but that’s one of the things I’m most proud of. Bootleg NYC was the perfect ending to an incredible story, and I’ll miss you all. And seeing everyone hanging out at the bars after each night in the screening rooms, seriously, that was fucken amazing. I loved it.
To my Bootleg family - Neil, Jeff, Cim, Nikki, Gav, Grabes and Phil, thank you. You guys are amazing and I owe you so, so much. But the band will be working on other things soon enough I’m sure. Additionally, thank you to all the viewers who helped us with selections and to our volunteers, sponsors and supporters throughout the years. It’s been immense to have you all aboard.
And now, well, what’s next? No longer being the centre of the Hurricane Bootleg is going to be strange, but you know what, I’ve got plenty to occupy an unquiet mind. There are the two features I’ve already shot this year, the third one on the way, and whole bunch of other things on top. But between now and then, I’ll just hold onto the good feelings I’ve been left with after five incredible years of Bootleg Film Festival.
From the smallest start to the biggest finish, it has been nothing but immense.
Rock n roll.
12 Sep 2013
A big part of this is sifting through the back catalogue and finding a little inspiration, and in doing so, I've decided to start drawing a little more.
I've added a page to this site to post up re-interpretations from my films, and hopefully just turn that little filmmaker gasket enough to let out a little creativity.
All the drawings are being worked through on an iPad (and yeah, took a little getting used to), but you can check them out here and via my Instagram.
Rock n roll.
10 Sep 2013
|I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and deliberated over and again about whether it’s the right thing to do or not, but here it is: Bootleg NYC will be the last one. There. I guess that makes it official.|
Before you weep, cheer or just shrug your shoulders with indifference, please indulge me a little explanation and reflection.
I’m fighting the temptation to get too misty-eyed about the whole thing, but maybe I just need to give in and try and write this out with complete honesty. Some people may want to take task with what I’ve got to say, but you know, this is what it is, and I hope you all understand how important it is to write from the stomach. After all, that’s how I compose my screenplays, and to do anything else would be a disservice to all you guys.
Bootleg Film Festival was a bad idea turned good. Let me explain.
In 2008, fresh to a new life in Glasgow, Scotland, I was feeling pretty inspired by what I had just managed to achieve.
My self-financed-on-a-shoestring feature had just been sold to a US distributor, and I was feeling pretty rosy about the whole deal.
Here I was - 29 - ten years after this actor-with-no-film-training had decided to write a screenplay, about to have my film released. What a sweet victory.
It had been a decade of being laughed at, ignored and mired in day job after shitty day job, getting fired, walking out or just trying to handle the fact that the world was populated by assholes. Inside myself, I was holding onto the belief that eventually I would make a feature film, and that all would turn good. And it did. Sort of.
I mean, I don’t care who you are, when you sell a film, that shit goes to your head fast.
I thought I was invincible and that I was about to coast into a life of champagne parties and an endless stream of movie deals. After a decade of working shitty jobs and hopping from couch to couch, from stability to instability and back again, here I was, Tommy Know-It-All: the guy who could shoot films for less than 2K and get them out to the world. It’s amazing how far blind-belief will carry you.
And two things happened in that spring: first, I wrote Nina Nobody - the film that has a crazy and insane history of its own - and then second, I decided to start my own film festival. This is where the bad idea part comes in.
The name flashed through my head, and I listed it on Withoutabox. Then, I panicked. What did I know about running a film festival? Sure, I needed movies, and a venue, and an audience… But after that, well, I didn’t have any idea of what it would take. But as I said, believing that the idea is worthy is sometimes the magic sauce that gives you the energy to deal with the difficult stuff. And there was a lot of difficult stuff.
From day one, the remit was I can. I will. I did. It was the mission statement; that every filmmaker had, in the course of getting their story made, told themselves, I can do this. I will do this. And eventually, after much blood, sweat, tears (and a few miracles), they get to say I did do this.
And that to me was always a huge deal. Because when I started out, there were so many people telling me to give it up. But I refused, over and over and over.
Storytelling is at the root of all modern cultures, and protecting that, investing emotionally and encouraging it (rather than, you know, the absolute opposite) matters immensely. Our ability to craft and enjoy stories is what makes us human. Cinema is just a modern iteration of that.
So by kick-starting Bootleg, I had a belief that this was all about celebrating filmmakers as both individuals and as a collective force. It wasn’t about fancy parties or who-knew-who egotism. It was just to raise the awareness of those crazy/awesome individuals who were making movies on the rent money.
Of course, we’ve come a long way from that one-man-band set-up in Glasgow, screening films in the basement of a coffee shop whilst everybody sat on the floor.
And I can’t pretend - it’s been really, really tough over the years.
After that first Bootleg (which was truly amazing), where I got to meet so many fantastic faces, many of whom have gone on to become great friends, I didn’t really know how it could get any better. But it did.
I took it from Glasgow to Swansea, from London to Toronto, all the time, growing the festival into being something much more, and connecting with a bigger and bigger team/family. And it became their Bootleg too. And the whole time, we were doing it for the filmmakers that we loved, encouraging them to embrace the celebration of what they had achieved.
I’m not pretending - it took time to figure out our identity, and how best to serve the movie makers that showed up. But of course, it was always infused by a belief and a passion that, no matter how things went at other festivals, when you came to Bootleg, you were the focus. You were the star.
Of course, over those years, I have also dealt with some truths of my own about this film business - about the magical accounting that means you’ll rarely ever get paid, and about the greed and the pessimism the seems to mire every corner of ‘development’, all along believing that Bootleg could be about something different. And it always has been.
So in taking this festival to New York, I knew I was taking the biggest gamble yet.
The festival doesn’t make money. Ever. You only have to look at Withoutabox and their monopoly to factor in just how financially hard it is to make this all work.
And then there are the costs of venues (without going into specifics, renting anything in TriBeCa is extortionate). So after a while, you realise that it takes a certain kind of passion to make movies. And a certain kind of madness to run a festival for those movies.
Listen, I’ve been there. I’ve been the guy living in a cramped, mice-infested apartment, riddled with damp and working a minimum-wage job, getting screamed at by customers because of my bosses archaic refund policies.
I’ve been the dude who was promised he could be anybody if I just applied myself, but told that the education would cost me the next three decades in student loans.
I’ve been told to not aim too high because the fall won’t be as far.
But I couldn’t buy into any of it.
So I quit my stupid jobs. I demanded more. And I tried to make sure that, no matter how incrementally things changed for me, I would always try and keep the door open for the next guy.
And it’s working, it really is.
Through Bootleg, I’ve seen some incredible talent grow and build a name for themselves. And it’ll only keep happening as those same filmmakers (I hope), keep inspiring somebody else to keep doing their thing.
But for me, it’s time to step away.
You see, after my bad idea became such a joy, I realised that I had grown and changed myself as a filmmaker. This year alone I’ve shot two features of my own, and this Bootleg is the second of 2013. And honestly, it’s exhausting. I’m realising more and more that I’m asking so many filmmakers to step up to the plate and to represent themselves and each other, whilst quietly being frustrated by the occasionally muted responses.I get it. It’s me. It’s my beautiful, misinformed idealism that has gotten me here. It’s that out-there belief that everybody deserves to be at the top of the mountain at least once, carried up by those that saw and fell in love with their talents. But I also know that many people just don’t choose to live, or celebrate, in that way. But you know what, maybe that’s no longer my cause. Maybe it’s up to them to do it for themselves. Maybe my career is about just me. And that’s probably a good thing.
You see, this is about celebration. That is the literal etymological root of the word 'festival' - a feast of celebration. And the films we lose sleep over to pick, these are the movies we love and choose to honour with our own humble resources. Not because we think there’s any status-gain (because trust me, there isn’t), but because we love storytelling.
I’m going to try and round this out in a way that I hope will make sense. Bootleg NYC at TriBeCa Film Center is about as big as we could ever have possibly hoped for. It’s like the fucken temple that filmmakers had built for them. We can’t go any bigger than this. Bootleg is not run by film critics or intellectuals; it’s run by filmmakers. By people who have done the 3am starts and the 2am finishes. It’s run by people who are risking (and sacrificing) their own time and reputations for those other filmmakers, who in any other circumstance would be the competition. And for what? Honestly, because it matters. People doing shit with their lives that elevates them beyond the mediocre and the less ordinary means that they might just inspire somebody else to chase the dream that matters to them.
If you’re a filmmaker with a movie in at Bootleg NYC, remember that I didn’t start this for myself. I could have saved myself a lot of money, time, tears and worry and poured it all into my own career. But then there were too many people doing that already.
So if you’ve ever been a part of this, I’m asking for one thing; help me make this the very best Bootleg yet. Do something for your fellow filmmakers that is about getting the word out on how good they are. Because like so many others, come Monday morning, a lot of filmmakers are right back to a life where not too many people really care about them or what they do. And I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sit well for me.
So if you are in NYC, come to Bootleg. Even if you’re not, tell someone. Tell everyone. On Twitter and Facebook and at the local bar. The smallest action will have the biggest impact.
And as I sign off on the last Bootleg ever, I want to say thank you to every single person whoever shot a film, sent it to us and helped us celebrate. And an even bigger thank you to those who said becoming a filmmaker was a bad idea.
Because no matter how you deal with your own life and your own dreams, this was always about making it just a little bit better for the next filmmaker. And I think we achieved that.
Rock n roll.